Mr. Queen is here, and so far it’s every bit the crazy ride we expected. In its opening week we meet our hero, follow his magical mishap, and then join him in a world of Joseon mayhem. It’s wacky, it’s bawdy, and the hijinks are only getting started.
EPISODES 1-2 WEECAP
Our drama opens with a pretty frank picture of our hero JANG BONG-HWAN (Choi Jin-hyuk). After his awesome comedic performance in Zombie Detective, it’s fun to see him here, even if it’s just a cameo. Bong-hwan is a top chef at the Blue House, and though he might be ultra talented, he’s also totally full of himself… and he’s such a player!
Just in his few minutes onscreen, we see him checking out every woman that’s breathing, whether it’s a love affair in the kitchen supply room, or blatant sexual interest in every woman that passes. He gets in trouble with the law, and in a crazy scuffle, winds up falling from his balcony (but he’s not above checking out an attractive woman on his way down).
He smashes into a swimming pool, cracks his head open… and this is the moment where the body swap begins. After a random underwater kiss with a woman in hanbok, though.
When Bong-hwan wakes up, he’s now KIM SO-YONG (Shin Hye-sun), a courtier who’s about ten seconds away from becoming queen of Joseon. It’s a fast-moving and really funny journey from Bong-hwan’s denial to actually piecing together, and finally accepting, what’s happened to him. Of course, these sort of body swap and time slip dramas require us to embrace the madness — and maybe because every scene here is total madness, it just makes it that much easier to get on board.
Shin Hye-sun’s awesome performance is what really sells this, though. From oogling her/his court ladies, to the totally unladylike behavior and manspreading — it’s pretty funny. Gender bending and body swap dramas have a storied history in dramaland, and while they’re not my favorite, I can appreciate when the drama is having a good ol’ time with it. And Mr. Queen sure is.
It doesn’t take So-yong (we’ll call our hero by his Joseon queen identity now) long to stitch the details together. First, she makes a connection between the fact that the last thing she remembers is falling into the pool, and the thing she’s told by her court ladies is that she almost drowned in the lake and has been unconscious for a whole day.
The court is not only concerned for her safety, but her mental health too — as will happen when the Destined Queen wakes up with a personality transplant, a lurid gaze for all the women around her, and regularly tries to drown herself in every body of water she can locate. The water, of course, is So-yong’s only link back to her world, but when near-drowning doesn’t work, she slowly comes to accept the time slip/body swap that has occurred. After first thinking it’s a giant prank and she’s been forced into a sex change operation against her will, haha.
Episode 1 does a pretty great job of selling the concept, as we follow So-yong through her panic, denial, and eventual acceptance that what happened to her is very real. Rather than fight it and continue to freak out the court with her seeming suicide attempts, she decides to play along (well, mostly), and get to the bottom of the mystery.
As we know, any royal court is rife with political struggle and power dynamics, and Mr. Queen is no exception. Just as So-yong soon fills in the details of her identity, she meets KING CHEOLJONG (Kim Jung-hyun), whom she’s about to marry.
Their first meeting is pretty epic — So-yong demanding the lake to be refilled, and King Cheoljong deeply “studying” his 19+ reading material. So-yong (or, Bong-hwan, really) is pretty up on her history, and there’s a great moment where she’s trying to piece together which king Cheoljong is, and then recalling that he’s remembered in history as a “Joseon representative sex maniac” and a mere political puppet.
Sure enough, that’s the king that we meet — it doesn’t get more banal than Cheoljong sitting in court following the Grand Dowager’s cues, and having absolutely no ability to follow the political goings-on of his own court. In fact, Cheoljong is such a snooze that I got worried for a second. Is there anything here for Kim Jun-hyun to chew on here besides mooning over his royal concubine? But they don’t string us on for long, and soon we realize he’s actually a bit of an undercover hero! Or at least, that’s what we’re beginning to see with his secret night ninja squad and their attempts to undo political corruption.
But first, marriage! King Cheoljong marries So-yong, who is comedically horrified over their wedding night, and equally ridiculous during the entire ceremony when she’s trying to deal with the headdress or proper court protocols. That the marriage is a mere political one soon becomes obvious, and that’s when we start to see Cheoljong’s image fall apart. He’s not even remotely interested in her sexually, seems to have eyes only for his royal concubine JO HWA-JIN (Seol In-ah) — and he knows a whole lot more than he lets on.
One of my favorite elements of the premiere week were these hints that Cheoljong is very different from how history remembers him, and that So-yong will not only learn the truth, but that there will be a lot of court intrigue and mysteries to unpack along the way. We’re only at the very start of the story, but already So-yong is getting memory flashes of the night she fell into the lake. I have a feeling we’ll be discovering the truth behind this mystery in no time.
Can’t stop a player, though. So-yong might be committed to playing her role and getting to the bottom of things… but that doesn’t stop her from escaping from the palace cross-dressed as a man, and scurrying off to a gisaeng house. Here she has a lovely time for herself, surrounded by alcohol and beautiful women. Oh gosh, Shin Hye-sun is so believable here, and so great at capturing this horndog man trapped in a queen’s body, that this is all as trippy as it is entertaining, and that definitely feels like the aim here.
Overall, I found Mr. Queen’s opening week to be a pretty strong one, with a clear concept, and a lot of hints of what’s to come. And though it might be a little early to guess, it seems like So-yong/Bong-hwan will be making a positive impact on the court (and possible history, too) — once she finishes grieving over her missing “dragon” and “dragon balls,” that is.
Watch more information of upcoming drama “Mr. Queen (2020)
” at here